Customer Service: What Are They Thinking?

July 5, 2010

Customer Service Failure

One simple question, but I still haven’t received an answer. One of the following gripes is simply poor set up of a customer service IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system.

But the second? (for the record – the original title to this was going to be WTF are they thinking,,, without the short form)

Well, I support being sure of information, and being sure of security – but there comes a time……

First let me back up with two background facts;

First, Yes I am married, but my wife uses her maiden name.

Secondly, just about three years ago we purchased my daughter a cellular package from Solo Mobile here in Canada. She was still a minor at the time, so the purchase was not in her name. And in this case it was my wife who went with her to get the phone, (but it could have just as easily been myself with the same following problem)

Did you notice that I stated; just about three years ago? We knew that we had purchased it around the beginning of her school term at the time. Meaning that sometime between August and October of this year that three year anchor (sorry, contract) is expiring.

At least with some carriers here, you also need to give three months notice that you are letting a plan expire – if you don’t, the carrier just rolls over the same plan and same phone at the same price on a month to month basis.

You can see the beginning of where I am going!

The supposedly simple question: What is the exact date that this plan is finished so this old phone can be allowed to die?

I could not find that information on the monthly statement, I could not find it on the electronic customer service portal either.

So I had to call their customer service line. Strangely enough – service only until 6 PM, so I had to call at lunch.

Their IVR system had “press 1-2-3” prompts for seeing phone usage stats, upgrading or adding features, support and other prompts. Buth there were none for my question; when does this plan terminate!! There was no press a button prompt to get to a human either. Although on one positive note, there was a prompt to reverse up the IVR tree each time I reached a dead end in my button pushing, so I was not forced to hang up and re-dial each time.

That was the minor IVR annoyance – now here is the kicker

1) I called customer service from that cellular phone

2) I had the credit card number it was purchased on

3) I had the monthly statement in front of me

3) I had the account ID number

4) I had the client ID number

When I finally found the correct sequence of prompts that got me to a human?

Their customer service still refused to speak with me because my name is not Heather!!!

And as hard as it sounds, there was worse!

Well two things were worse, one was the following statement, and the second was that I was not smart enough to take advantage of it when I was arguing with  them.

The statement?

“.. if Heather is there, just put her on the phone to prove its your plan you want to terminate”

What I should have done?

I should have handed the phone to the woman in the office next to me and just told her;

‘Just say you’re Heather, date of birth is dd/mm/yy when they ask for the Mothers maiden name it is xyz.’

The Takeaway

The IVR was an annoyance, no more.

But what in the hell information do I need to cancel a cellular phone? A faxed copy of the wedding certificate? (or, god forbid, a death certificate?)

We are not the only family in the world where the ‘dear wife’ (forgive the sarcasm) is not Mrs. Elliot Ross. Many women keep maiden names (default in province of Quebec in fact) and many hyphenate.

Dear Solo, a ‘security’ policy that you won’t talk to me because of my name, but would talk to the woman beside me if she said the right name, needs just a little bit of work.

UPDATE – 24 September – Solo has screwed with us again –

Since they would not talk to me, my wife had to call – (copy paste of the email below with addresses redacted) Solo documented the call and suggested calling again on the termination date to confirm.

Guess What?

When my wife called?

They said 30 days notice required and we were on the hook for another 30 days. Notice the email date – July 06!

From: Heather Buchan [mailto:heather.b@<deleted>.com]
Sent: Tuesday, July 06, 2010 15:38
To: Elliot Ross
Subject: RE: Solo won’t talk to me

Elliot, I spoke to Solo, the plan expires September 21st, 2010.  They have noted our file that we wish to cancel as of September 21, however we need to call them again on September 21 to confirm.
I will put a reminder in my calendar.

Photo Credit nathangibbs via flickr


5 Responses to “Customer Service: What Are They Thinking?”

  1. Jay Baron Says:

    What a pain! I hate overhearing service reps putting up a brick wall and claiming security, and I field complaints all the time from customers who were told they weren’t allowed to work on the account. While security is important, a smart rep should ask themselves a few questions…

    – is the information being requested sensitive in nature? A ‘customer’ calling in asking what their address is, for example, might be a red flag

    – are there changes being asked that would affect billing?

    – is there security information on the
    Account that was previously gathered? It’s common practice to gather I’D or create a verbal password when setting up service

    – are there any other signs that the caller is in a position to speak about the account? Being able to provide contract information, serial numbers, anything to satisfy that the person you’re talkin to is a user on the account

    Its all about being friendly and open minded enough to respond to these situations. You’re there to help an the customer isn’t calling in about random accounts just for the fun of it. Nay as well do what you can, right?

    • elliotross Says:

      Thank you for dropping by Jay!

      In this case I am guessing (I repeat the guessing word) that it is policy – no flexibility. And I guess that from his statement that I mention above

      But you are absolutely correct in that when I am in possession of every piece of information that they have on me as a customer – what is left to ask for?

      There has to be a balance of possibility on fraud, me calling with only the phone number? I can see that- but when I have every possible piece of information they have on me?

      I think that the balance of probability is negligible

      Thanks again!


  2. elliotross Says:

    Thank you for your comment Kate!

    I agree with their need to protect – but at what point is it too much?

    I was in possession over piece of information they have on us as a customer.

    For me to have called with that information and not being legit would mean that I had abducted & forced that information out. A criminal case – not one where they need to worry about ‘slamming’

    Regards & thanks!

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kate Nasser and James Sorensen. James Sorensen said: RT @elliotross: #custserv tweeps, finally got the post what are they thinking? I promised last week #fail >headache […]

  4. Wow Elliot. Quite an ordeal for you and quite a story for all to glean many things.

    For me, the key problem was the IVR with no easy exit to speak with a human. It just screams out “large scaling cost reduction” step that in the end does not cut costs.

    Now on to your issue of identity. I understand that cell phone companies want to protect against fraud and the old scam of “slamming” where competitive companies would change your plan w/o your knowledge. YET, as you say the method that company was using would not have prevented any potential fraud (which of course you were not perpetrating).

    An experienced customer service rep (vs. an IVR) could have handled the situation well with insight, appropriate questions, and care. Moreover, cell phone companies could use the same security procedures online banking does — i.e. Security keys, images etc…

    So frustrating for you and SO solvable with caring reps and appropriate security procedures.

    You have my empathy on this one. Maybe that cell phone company should read some of my blog posts on delivering great customer service!
    Kate Nasser

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